A federal appeals court has ruled that Julea Ward can pursue her case against Eastern Michigan University (EMU) on the basis that she may have been the victim of religious discrimination.
Ward was expelled in 2009 from her graduate counseling program after refusing to see a gay client. She claimed that she could not, in good faith, counsel LGBT clients because it went against her religious beliefs. However, EMU’s counseling program requires students to follow the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or imposing personal beliefs on clients.
The Sixth District Court of Appeals has ruled that Ward’s case should be reviewed again by the lower court, saying that her First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of religion may have been violated.
This is one of two cases in the court system which deals with whether or not university programs can require that students be held to professional codes mandating the treatment of patients. Jennifer Keeton, a master’s student at Augusta State University in Georgia, was expelled after her views were deemed incompatible with the school’s counseling program. Keeton was asked to complete a “remediation program” before being allowed to graduate after stating in the classroom that she believed homosexuality was a lifestyle choice and advocating conversion therapy to “cure” homosexuals.